Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared at SUNY Buffalo State Tuesday to drum up support for his free tuition plan, the Excelsior Scholarship Campaign.
Cuomo's visit was the first stop on a tour to promote his proposed scholarship program. More than 600 students and supporters gathered for the rally. Governor Cuomo encouraged Buffalo State students to rally behind his free tuition plan.
Cuomo used the theme of affordability and calls to make college tuition free for New York's m iddle-class families. He explained how families struggle with the cost of college.
“Fathers and mothers are sitting around saying ‘I don’t know how to pay for college. How do I afford this, make it work? I’m afraid that my child is not going to have a better life than I have.’ And that’s what the fuel of the American Dream was — every generation was going to do better than the next. And now you're doubting if you child is going to be able to achieve what you achieved,” Cuomo declared.
The Governor said students need a college education to be in the new economy. But Cuomo has not provided specific details of how the state would pay for the plan. However, he did point out the state has a $30 billion education budget.
“But it is a minuscule amount of $30 billion dollars and it is well worth our expenditures,” said Cuomo. “The critics will raise two points — first of all it’s too expensive. It cost $163 million, which sounds like a lot of money. I would say you think we can’t afford to do it. I think we can’t afford not to do it. Otherwise, we will have the economy pass us by.”
Buffalo State President Katherine Conway Turner was pleased the Governor selected her to begin his tour. She said this tuition plan could create a surge in the number of students who might attend the school. Only full-time students would be eligible. Conway Turner said the tuition plan could be an incentive for part-time students to enroll full-time.
"If I were a student it would motivate me to go full time and finish my education in four years rather then to go more slowly, but I also know that summer-time students go part-time because of the resources, because they don't have full-time tuition," explained Conway Turner.
If approved nearly 80 percent of Western New Yorkers would be eligible.
Buffalo State students were certainly excited and embrace the idea of receiving free-tuition. Student Nigeo Peters said it is a step in the right direction.
"I'm afraid if this goes through they might cut financial aid a little bit to compensate," Peters responded.
Buffalo State senior Marvalous Ogunbiyi said she plans to call on lawmakers asking them to support this plan.
"I know like a lot of my friends stopped going to college because they couldn't afford it and they didn't get any financial aid.
Cuomo is urging support from the state legislature so college is affordable for more students.
“We have to get in past in this state and that’s the message to the Assembly and to the Senate, pass this — let New York lead. Let’s renew the dream and you watch the nation follow,” shouted Cuomo.